Friday, January 22, 2016
Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016 11:00 pm
Are New England sports fans arrogant?
Yep - without a doubt. That's not exactly breaking news, though some (including columnists) enjoy acting as if this is a new phenomenon which they have just discovered.
That arrogance is embarrassing to some "sports elitists" who like to lecture fans on how they should act and think. I chuckle when I read or listen to someone making their living from the games people play opine that others are taking it far too seriously.
Recently, we were treated to the view that Patriots fans have been far too hard on poor Peyton Manning, the Denver quarterback and certain future hall-of-famer. New Englanders were accused of "star-bashing" and mocking the superstar, who is in the twilight of one of the greatest careers in professional sports history.
It was suggested we Pats fans might be acting out of guilt because of Spygate and Deflategate, that we might be overcompensating with "bluster." We were told we should "act like you've been there before".
Well, we have been "there" before. And while that does not give us the right to act irresponsibly, or wrongfully besmirch the reputation and character of anyone, it does mean we as fans have earned the right to enjoy it.
And if that embarrasses anyone - that's just too damn bad.
The expression "fan" is derived from the word "fanatic." Those who buy tickets or watch their favorite teams from the comfort of home often do so as an outlet, a form of relaxation or emotional relief.
It's not politics or government. There are no lives at stake. Economies do not collapse and countries are not overrun when a football team wins or loses a game, no matter how important.
So, if those fans want to scream at their TV, or call obnoxious sports radio talk show hosts and exchange stupid theories of why certain coaches or players do certain things - let them. These are games designed to bring about emotional responses, and it is universally understood that emotional responses have little to do with logic.
When done within the bounds of common decency, bashing the superstar on the other team is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. I have done it - I admit it.
I have booed players on certain teams simply because they stand in the way of the organization I support accomplishing its goal. Yes - I have often "cheered for laundry," as the saying goes.
I am not one of those people who objectively watch sporting events for the pure appreciation of the skills exhibited by the participants. If that makes me arrogant or a bad person, I can live with that.
Perhaps others are right. Maybe I should sit around on Sunday afternoons and clinically discuss and appreciate the skilled athletes I am privileged to watch. Maybe I need to be more of a high-brow type of sports fan.
I could sip wine coolers with my friends, discussing the finer points of each game.
"Gee, that opposing quarterback certainly throws the deep ball exceeding well," one of us would note. "He just threw the touchdown pass that beat us, but you have to admire the skill he exercised in doing so."
But, I don't.
I yell and make unreasonable demands. I engage in stupid conversations about what plays should be run. I follow crazy superstitions, and when at professional games have been known to yell at players in an effort to distract them (like they can actually hear me).
I'm a fan of the Patriots and other local teams. I enjoy arrogantly teasing my New York friends (not Giant fans, for obvious reasons). This Sunday, I will call all my New Jersey friends and ask, "Hey, what time are the Jets playing today? Oh, sorry. I forgot."
I've followed my teams through the low points. I've earned this arrogance some speak about. And I see nothing wrong with enjoying the living daylights out of it while I can - within reasonable limits, of course.
Spare me the sanctimonious drivel about "bluster." I'm a fan of the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, and I want to watch them ease Peyton Manning into early retirement this weekend.
I hope that's not too harsh.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and 44-year Patriots season ticket holder. He can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
Friday, January 15, 2016
GOUVEIA: Foxboro should pass on hiring next police chief through Civil Service
Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:15 pm | Updated: 12:01 pm, Fri Jan 15, 2016.
Next month, Foxboro's town meeting will decide if the position of police chief should continue to be governed by the state's Civil Service laws.
Here's hoping they go with the statewide trend and remove the important post from the constricting and political confines of Civil Service. It is a system that served a purpose in years past, but is now little more than an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that restricts the proper management of municipal departments.
Civil Service was designed as protection for both employees and municipalities many decades ago. It primarily exists today in some police and fire departments. It sets some conditions for employment, and administers tests, which must be passed by those seeking to be hired and promoted.
In the days when such jobs were plum patronage rewards handed out to political supporters, it served to make sure employees and candidates for advancement were qualified by means other than family or political connections. Now, it is a bloated, corrupt and inefficient body that has been rendered almost useless by the progression of both state and federal labor and hiring regulations - not to mention collective bargaining.
To hire a police chief through Civil Service is a laborious task. You have to request an exam be held, which can take up to a year or more. Once the exam is given, you have to wait for a list to be handed down with the names of those who passed.
Cities and towns are then required to take the highest scoring name on the list - unless they give a good reason why they have bypassed the higher-scoring applicants. Sounds fair, right?
But it's not. The conditions that are applied to the tests and the lists are intended and designed to almost guarantee locals get these positions - even if they are less qualified than others who might be working elsewhere. It effectively limits the search to only those within the department, which is both incestuous and against all sound management principles.
That's not to say the best candidate isn't one from inside the department. That is often where the best person for the job is found. And few are opposed to giving every advantage to in-house candidates over "outsiders."
But giving an advantage is one thing, and rigging the game so a town has no other option than to appoint from within is yet another. In short, that is exactly what Civil Service does.
Those in the department, itself, are usually staunch supporters of Civil Service. And why wouldn't they be? It is a tremendous benefit to them personally.
When an opening for chief occurs, and the job is effectively limited to those in the department, it usually elevates several people at a time. A lieutenant might be promoted to chief. A sergeant might then be promoted to lieutenant. A patrolman might then step up to sergeant, and everyone moves up the seniority ladder.
Pay increases are realized, career advancement is achieved and morale is certainly enhanced.
But you could theoretically have a tremendously qualified officer in the next town who would make a great police chief - and you can't hire him or her simply because they currently work elsewhere.
Towns without Civil Service are free to search for the best qualified candidate without being limited by geography. That's how school superintendents, town managers, town administrators, principals and other department heads are hired.
But Civil Service keeps us trapped in an old-fashioned political mindset. Proponents of the system claim it is necessary to keep politics out of the police or fire departments. But that's just not true. It makes the job more political, not less so.
Town meetings often vote to keep Civil Service because they are told it protects citizens. They are told it gives them more control, when it actually allows them less. That plays on their natural distrust of government.
But, think about it. You have two systems for hiring a chief.
In the first, you can advertise and search for the best qualified candidate and hire on your timetable.
In the other, you are forced to only hire people already working for you. And you have to do it the way the system dictates.
Which one of those sounds the most political to you?
Friday, January 8, 2016
GOUVEIA: Gun debate will go on despite president's latest action
An emotional President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the youngest victims of the Sandy Hook shootings, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, where he spoke about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Posted: Friday, January 8, 2016 12:00 am
It took a long time, but President Obama has finally taken concrete steps to battle the gun violence issue. And now he will be severely chastised by all sides of the argument.
Unable to get Congress to seriously consider any type of legislation including even the slightest bit of gun control, the president issued an executive order this week. It basically attempted to close the gun show loophole and toughen registration requirements in order to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.
Those on the right will say this is merely the next step in his plan to go door-to-door and collect all the legal guns in this country. Those on the left will complain his actions don't go far enough and won't truly solve the problem. And the debate will go on as it has for decades now.
Congratulations to President Obama for stepping up and taking action, even if it did take him seven years. Only the most unreasonable and irrational among us can really object to what he has put forth. Even a lobbyist for the NRA made light of the order, essentially saying "This is all you came up with?"
Proper registration is essential if we are to be serious about reducing gun violence. It is almost universally agreed that mentally unstable people should not have access to guns. Requiring mandatory federal background checks and not allowing them to purchase weapons at local gun shows is a simple and necessary concept.
But many are wondering - why now? Why has it taken so long to get to even this point? After Columbine and Sandy Hook and all the other terrible gun disasters, why is it even this small step is only happening at this point in time?
The answer is - politics. Or more correctly, political reality.
With so many battles to fight, including just keeping the government open and operating year-to-year, President Obama has not been able to afford to take a step like this in the past. It would have cost him too much political capital for too little gain.
This might sound callous, but it truly does reflect the situation in Washington. In the current political climate, you have to choose your battles. With Congress blaming Obama for everything, including the weather, he simply did not have the clout necessary to issue such an order earlier. With both the House and Senate controlled by the opposition party for the vast majority of time, it would have been foolish.
He did try to get legislation passed after Sandy Hook, but the NRA did a masterful job of public relations and made it impossible. With the legislative route off the table, he knew issuing an executive order was the "nuclear option."
So he waited.
Now he has one year left in office. Most of his political battles, including budget wars, are behind him. What is left is 12 months where he can solidify his mark on the country and try and shape his legacy. And that's what he is doing.
He doesn't want to just be known as the first African-American president. He has already guided the nation through one of the worst economic disasters in its history and led us back toward recovery. He has reduced unemployment, seen the stock market rocket to new highs before recent problems, and perhaps most importantly, provided health care to millions who desperately needed it.
Ever the smart politician and leader, President Obama waited until his actions on guns could actually be sustained and meaningful. There is no guarantee his efforts won't be quickly undone by Congress or the next president, but for now, it is the law.
And this citizen thanks him.
I don't believe proper gun registration is a conservative or liberal position. It is common sense. The fact it has been used to advance political and social goals of greedy candidates and special interests aside, it is something government needs to do.
President Obama's directive isn't the whole answer. It won't curb all gun violence. It is a beginning, not an end.
But let those who seek to bring us backwards from here do so at their own political peril.
Thank you, Mr. President.